Connected Once Again…

I am very excited to report that I am once again connected to the technological world.  My land line and DSL service are 100% up and running.

When I first installed the XS house I installed a cell phone booster made by Wilson Electronics along with a 800 and 1900Mhz directional antenna.  This setup works about 80% of the time for data and 100% of the time for voice.  Frankly, the data rate is spotty and it’s just not good enough for full-time living.

My lot had an old pole with 2 wires that were connected to the phone lines at the street so I called Verizon to come out and hook them up.  Speaking with my neighbor, I learned that his house is the last one with DSL.  Since my lot is closer to the central office than his, I too could get DSL.

Two weeks ago, the Verizon tech showed up and checked out the lines.  He connected a box to the lines and went back to the office and ran some tests.  After about 40 minutes came back and said that I was not getting hooked up and there was some issue with their internal systems but the lines were fine.

The next day I got a robocall for a Verizon service call the next Monday.  The next day I got another for the next Tuesday.  Well Monday and Tuesday came and went without my phone getting installed.  I call into their support hotline and learn that the tech has no idea who sent out the robocalls and that nothing had been done on my job (perfect!).  The tech schedules a call for yesterday which went off without a hitch.

The tech did a nice job even cutting away some brush from around the pole.  I was required to provide the ground stake which was made from an 8 foot piece of rebar and some 8AWG solid copper wire.
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When I got home I ran a piece of phone cable thru the woods to the pole.  Since I’m building another house this installation is temporary so I’m just sort of running my pump and phone wires thru the woods under some pine needles and leaves…don’t try this at home :).

For some reason my DSL modem would not work.  Lights were blinking but nothing was happening.  The power adapter I had may not have been the one that came in the modem box and it was not rated at 1 amp.  Stupid me, I should have kept all the phone stuff together.  Since I was going to run the thing off 12V anyway, I just cut the end off and wired on a 12V plug.  With the 12V plug things started working better but I still could not connect to the DSL service.

Figuring that my crappy wire thru the woods was the culprit, I moved everything to my truck and connected directly to the pole which worked as expected.  After inspection of the wiring, I noticed that my green wire was not pushed in very far into the terminal and may have actually been loose.  With that fixed and the DSL modem back in the house, I was able to get DSL service back in the house.

Tech Support

The Verizon activation screen prompted me for an order number and zip code which I entered with no success (several times).  After trying several order numbers without success, I had to call tech support.  After 15 minutes of listening to a recording tell me how important my call was to them, I got a nice lady from India to help me. She provided me with an order number that was not on any paperwork that I had and the activation process got started.

One issue I ran into was with OSX 10.8’s security settings.  I was not able to run the application needed to complete activation.  I had to adjust the settings from the control panel and then it ran just fine.

Final Numbers

Several runs on Speedtest.net showed that I was getting 2.5mb down and .8mb up which is a pretty respectable connection.  My system monitor shows that the DSL modem draws about 350 milliamps (.35 amps) which is about the same as the cell phone booster.  There are a lot of lights on this modem, I might see about opening it up and disconnecting them to save power.  I’m thinking that each light draws about 5 to 10ma, disabling six of them might save me 50ma.  Thats 1.2 amp hours per day power savings.  Probably a little extreme but why spend the power if I don’t have to?

Signature Scavenger Hunt

This morning I got the last signature needed for my building permit from the fire chief.  Wednesday afternoon I will be visiting his brother the building inspector with a set of plans to pick up my building permit.  Let the games begin…

This morning I expect the septic installer to be on site digging holes…will post pics.

Weekend Roundup

Lots to talk about from this weekend.  It was a cloudy on and off rainy weekend so outdoor activities were a bit limited.  It was a good test for my cabins power systems.

Projects

I completed two projects this weekend and did a site walk-thru with the septic installer.  It looks like I will be getting a new septic system installed on Tuesday of this week.  Hopefully it will be complete by the end of the week.  Then I can start working on the slab.

The first project was to insulate my water line into the XS house.  I started the project kind of half assed and didn’t think about insulation.  So I installed some 2″ XPS foam board insulation against the slab and over the buried water pipe to help keep it from freezing.  I then covered the ground with wood chips made with the brush from my building site.

The second project was at the request of the towns DPW manager.  He was concerned that the heavy trucks would crack the pavement at the transition where the pavement meets my dirt driveway.  I dug out a few inches of sand and filled it in with the remnants of well drilling (granite chunks and drilling mud) which packed down very nicely into a smooth hard transition.  When all the trucks are gone I will be required to install a six-foot apron of asphalt in order to have the DPW manager sign my occupancy permit (another $1000 bill I suspect).
Solar Drought

This what three days of no sun looks like on my Xantrex LinkLite power monitor

This is probably the best investment I have made for solar power equipment.  It lets me keep an eye on how much power I have remaining and shows me how much power things are consuming.  I have learned that even on cloudy days my two small panels actually produce quite a bit of power.  This weekend I probably stored 2 amp hours on both Sat and Sun even with cloudy skies.  This morning I sit at -17.9 amp hours which is still less than 10% discharged on my 200 amp hour bank.  The next 2 days will be clear and sunny so I expect to recover nicely.

My bank consists of a 100 watt panel and a 50 watt panel.  I’m pretty sure that the 50 watt panel does a much better job of providing cloudy day power than the 100 watt.  I need to research this a little more as it may affect the selection of panels for my large array for the Bodega.  If my array could produce 5-6 amp hours on a cloudy day…that would make for a pretty bullet proof system.

More outlets

I installed another 12V car socket next to my kitchen sink because I didn’t install enough when I built the place.  NEC requires that you have an outlet every six feet so I doubt lack of outlets will be an issue in the Bodega.  Being in power conservation mode this weekend I learned that it really is a good idea to have power switches on everything!  I think I am going to modify the Bodega electrical design to include a switch on every power outlet.

Two Legged? visitors

Not the code enforcement officer…but a grey colored owl came to visit me.  Each night I hear a screeching sound from the trees and figure it was owl’s.  This one showed up in daylight and I was able to get a (very bad) picture thru my loft (screened) window.

Phone Today

Verizon says that I will have a phone and DSL today….can’t wait.

My Refrigeration Options for Off-Grid Living

Let me start off by stating that my off grid living situation is different from most. My remote location is close to a major highway that allows me to commute to work each day. I am just a few miles from a smallish town that has a few stores (mostly booze) and other commerce.

I live off-grid but can still use the local on grid resources to my advantage. I would like to buy food items that require refrigeration and not have to use them up all at once. Items like butter, cream cheese, salad dressing, etc all require refrigeration and are not typically used up in one or two meals.

I do own a very small Engel 12V refrigerator and it works pretty well, but is power-hungry. I have seen it use 8-10 amp hours a night depending on conditions. In a cloudy stretch my 200 amp hour battery bank will be depleted in about a week. On top of that you are discharging the batteries more than 10% fairly often which is not good for their lifespan.

The other downside is that my Engel fridge is very small (six-pack sized) and not a lot fits in there. Salad items for example take up almost the entire thing. The cold sides also tend to create frozen spots in lettuce.

I thought about using a cooler as my fridge. Some models will hold ice for up to 8 days and are roomy enough to hold most things I eat. As a cheap test I went to the sporting goods store and picked up a Coleman 36 Qt Extreme 5 Cooler for $40 bucks. After about a week of use I can say that it probably will hold ice for 5 days as advertised…but just barely. I figure if a cheap $40 Chinese made POS cooler can accomplish this feat then an outfitter grade cooler will do much better!

Another consideration is my tiny space which is about 66 square feet. Anything I put in there needs to have a good reason for being there. In this case, the small Engel fridge takes up space and serves no other purpose. The cooler keeps things cold and makes a very nice bench seat for my desk. Any cooler I select should be capable of having my oversized rear sit on it for extended periods of time. The Coleman “test” cooler seems durable enough for this, but I would like something even stronger.

The last consideration for me is wild animals. We have lots of racoons and some very large black bears in the area. I do have a fence around my place, but a 300+ pound spring hungry black bear will probably just knock it over.

So I went in search of a high quality cooler that I will buy one time and will last. I found several companies that have such offerings Engel and Yeti seem to be the two popular ones. Here is a YouTube video of a cooler test:

After a couple of hours of reading, I decided to go with the 65 quart Engel Deepblue cooler for just under $300 shipped to my work. The Engel cooler is bear rated with padlocks installed on it. I will post some results when it comes in.

So where are you going to get the cold?

As I pointed out in the first paragraph, I have access to the on-grid world at my work. I plan to leave a gallon plastic jug in the freezer and swap it out every other day. Combined with some borrowed or store-bought ice this should work well in the summer months….although it might cost me a few bucks here and there. Being in the northeast, I have 4 months that I need to worry about freezing not cooling, so 1/3rd of my year is taken care of. The spring and fall I don’t expect to use much ice as the temperature differential is probably only 10 to 15 degrees.

The final idea is to make use of my Engel fridge as a freezer and harvest some spare solar panel capacity that I have in the afternoon. I’m thinking it may be possible to freeze a small bottle of water every afternoon to get a steady supply of cold.

All this sounds good in theory….I will report back to let you know how it works in real life.

Caframo Sirocco Model 807 Review

I needed a small energy-efficient fan for the sleeping loft of my XS house and decided to check what the sailboat folks use (they have the coolest stuff BTW).  I decided upon the Sirocco Model 807 from Caframo.

Features

  • Runs from 12V DC (they make a 24V model as well)
  • Has 3 speeds
  • Fan blades are soft so you won’t hurt yourself
  • Has a built-in timer to save energy
  • Neat gimbal system allows you to point it in any direction
  • Low power (.2 up to .35 amps) depending on speed

Unpacking

I ordered my fan from West Marine who promptly shipped my package.  It cost me $99 plus shipping which is pretty steep for a fan.  The package was undamaged upon arrival and it was what I would consider typical for a Chinese made product (not boxed like an Apple product).

Installation

You remove the plastic base which can be screwed to whatever you like.  The fan body has 2 lugs to connect dc power (pay attention to + and -).  The fan does vibrate a bit, so pick a fairly sturdy base to mount it on.  I don’t recommend using the double-sided tape they include.

I installed it into my sleeping area on a pushbutton switch.  Yes that’s right I installed another switch even though the fan has an on/off switch.  IMO every device in an off grid home requires a dedicated switch so you can decide what gets powered.  Being a “soft” switch means that this fan would apply a very small phantom load to your batteries even when off.  I did not measure the phantom load but expect that its pretty tiny, and some would not consider it worth an extra switch.

Powering the device up it ran pretty smooth although the fan blades do seem a bit out of balance (might be possible to manyally balance them if you are picky).  It delivers a lot of airflow for such a small fan and how little power it is using.  After a short time, I discovered that the fan had a strange “surging” action to it.  At first, I thought it was my charge controller causing small power disturbances as it charged my batteries.  After the first night, I concluded that something was wrong with the fan.  Before sending it back I decided to open it up to see if anything obvious was wrong with it.
With a small Phillips screwdriver I removed the 8 screws from the bottom to look for loose connections.  Inside there are 2 small circuit boards.  One has the main controller complete with surface mounted components.  The other contains the two pushbutton switches.

Upon close inspection I found a cold solder joint on one of the white wires.  I could reproduce the “surge” behavior by pressing on it.  I broke out the soldering iron and then spent 30 minutes looking for the butane refill canister.  With a hot iron I fixed the cold joint in just a few seconds and reassembled the unit.

I always like to look at the long-term serviceable parts in things like these.  I would say that the switches are pretty serviceable should they ever go bad down the road (push button switches like these can and do get flaky).  Replacement would probably involve installing a new button someplace and soldering wires to the circuit board….seems like enough room in there to accomplish such a repair.

The following nights the fan performed flawlessly!

Final Comments

This is a great little fan that moves a ton of air even on the lowest setting.  I like the blue timer lights since they double as a night-light.  The sleeping quarters of an XS house is very dark, this provides just the right amount of light for the area.  Having the timer shut off the fan after I fall asleep saves me a lot of power (6 hours @ .2 amps = 1.2 amp hours).

I would recommend this product…IF…you get a good one.  Test your unit and be prepared to return it if needed.  The company would do well to beat up their Chinese supplier who obviously has poor quality control.

I’ll do a long-term follow up to this review at some point.

Homeless…

My house sold last week and my mortgage accounts have disappeared from my Bank of America online banking dashboard.  I have moved to an undisclosed location to live in my off grid tiny house while I build my Bodega.  It feels good not owing money to greedy bankers anymore.  I have decided that I will never again borrow money from a bank.

I am a little concerned that someone will “rat me out to the man” and give me a bit of trouble for living in an “unpermitted dwelling”, so I am attempting to keep a low profile.  I am not doing anything illegal except living on property I own.  Seems silly that I worry about this when I am hundreds of feet from anyone and own 6+ acres of land….and in the middle of nowhere!

Keeping a Low Profile

Some tips that may help out other “tiny house campers” out there:

+ Keep out of sight.  In a small town people notice things that are different.  I have my tiny house out of sight and in a fenced area to keep people out.  I used solid picket fence near the house to make it difficult for someone wandering by to see what the nice looking “shed” is all about.

+ Manage your light. When its dark run a test to make sure that your lighting can’t be seen by anyone.  In the city that may mean blacking out your windows.  In the woods it may mean blacking out lights on the road side of your house.

+ Make up a good lie.  If anyone asks what you are doing, have a good story ready.  In my case, I have a house build in progress and have reason to be on site for the months of work that will go into that.

+ Keep vehicles out of sight.  Park your car someplace where it’s out of sight or in someplace it would normally be parked.  Parking your truck on the side of the road near your unpermitted dwelling is sure to get you caught at some point.

+ Stay on good terms with the neighbors.  Most calls to conservation or code enforcement come from neighbors…don’t trust them!

+ Shut up!  Don’t be telling everyone about your adventures living in a shed.  Yes, I am ignoring my own advice with this post.

Work Update

The septic install begins next week and the well is already in and functioning.  I will attempt to pick up a building permit next week.  I am trying to get the last of my CAD drawings completed so that I have a formal package for the building inspector.  Since this is an unusual project I think its best to have a very detailed design package for him.

The last thing the septic installer will do is dig the hole for my slab and the trench for my water line.  When completed I should be just a couple of weekends from calling the cement truck in to pour my slab.

Off Grid Living

I have only been off grid a couple of days but will share some initial thoughts.

+ Power adds up.  My fan, cell phone repeater, and misc usage is between 5 and 7 amp hours each night.  It’s easily recovered in a few sunny hours with my 150 watt solar array but its more than I expected.

+ RV hot water heaters are power hogs.  My 5 gallon unit draws an amp when its running…too much IMO!  On demand seems to be a much better solution albeit at some additional cost.  My routine has me turning on the water heater about 30 minutes before I need to use the water….this probably wastes 1/2 amp hour getting the tank up to temperature.

+ Verizon is a bunch of dumb asses.  I am waiting to get a voice line and DSL installed and Verizon can’t seem to get it done.  They promise next week but I don’t believe them.  I’ll tell the story when the line is finally in.

+ Organize and improvise.  I am going from a full size (but small) house to a tiny house and am still getting things right sized.  I am finding myself organizing, throwing out, and reorganizing in an effort to get comfortable.  Showering in a tiny shower also takes some getting used to….getting the hang of it tho.

+ Fridges use tons of power.  Almost 9 amp hours each night for a very small Engel unit.  I have switched to a 5 day cooler for the time being.  I actually kind of like it as it makes a nice seat for my desk.  I am working on a method of supplying ice from the freezer at work.

more off grid observations in a future post.

Selecting a Pump for Off Grid Operation (part 1)

Selecting a pump for off grid operation is much different from selecting one where you have an unlimited supply of AC power.  I believe strongly that low voltage DC is the way to go for off grid applications.  I personally like 12 volt systems since it’s a common solar panels voltage and a common voltage for storage batteries. The RV and boating industry makes all kinds of appliances and devices that run from 12V.  In the event you need some AC powered widget (microwave oven for example) you can buy an inverter to power it.

Some Math

I promise this won’t be too painful.  Most homes with wells are outfitted with a 3/4 or 1 horsepower pump.  This pump is either mounted in the basement or in the bottom of the well.  One horsepower is 746 watts of power.  Think of a watt as a unit of power only.  The simple formula AMPS = POWER / VOLTAGE is one you will use a lot.  For example:

1 Horsepower = 746 Watts

Running on 120V:

  • AMPS = POWER / VOLTAGE
  • AMPS = 746/120
  • 1 Horsepower @ 120V = 6.21 AMPS

Running on 12V:

  • AMPS = POWER / VOLTAGE
  • AMPS = 746/12
  • 1 Horsepower @ 12V = 62 AMPS

So you can see running a 1 horsepower pump at 12V draws over 60 amps.  A battery-powered system with a couple of batteries could handle this without any trouble….BUT….there is the very important issue of how much power you lose in the wiring.

Wire Losses

Copper wire is not a perfect conductor of electricity.  Even the best copper wire has a small amount of resistance to current flowing through it.  In the case of say 10 gauge wire it has one unit of resistance to current flow per 1000 feet.  This unit of resistance is called an ohm BTW.  The formula to determine voltage loss across your wiring is: VOLTAGE LOSS = CABLE RESISTANCE x CURRENT.  From our last example:

Pump: 1 HP (746 Watts or 62 amps @ 12 volts)

Pump Cable Length: 50 feet 10 AWG cable (100 feet of conductor total right?)

Cable Resistance: 1 Ohm per 1000 feet, 100 feet would be 0.1 ohm of resistance

  • VOLTAGE LOSS = CABLE RESISTANCE x CURRENT
  • VOLTAGE LOSS = 0.1 x 62
  • VOLTAGE LOSS = 6.2 Volts

If you lose 6.2 volts across the cable that leaves only 5.8 to run the pump which means the pump is not going to run!

From this math you can see that it’s not feasible to run a 1 horsepower pump from a bank of 12 volt batteries since you would require 2/0 cable where each strand is 1/2 inch in diameter.  Fear not, there is a practical solution.  In the next post I will discuss some of the trade-offs in selecting a pump for off-grid use.

Moving Day is Close at Hand…

Quick progress report for everyone.  My “real” house has been on the market and recently sold.  The closing will be in 2 weeks and I need to get all my crap moved pronto!

I listed the place this spring and hoped that by next spring I would be rid of the place.  A good realtor, good price, and good presentation we sold the place in about 8 weeks.  The buyer is very motivated to move into the place and he lit a fire under his banker (Rollstone Bank) who managed to get things together in just 2 weeks!

Selling Tips

With the crappy housing market, I thought some may benefit from my selling experience.  First thing I did was to de-clutter and throw crap out.  I rented a self storage unit and a dumpster.  My unemployed friend Tim helped me out by filling the dumpster with all the junk in my yard.  Everything that was of marginal value was tossed from the house as well.  Since I’m going to be going from 700SF to 300SF it was important to rid myself of non-essential items.

With the house decluttered I went about fixing everything that I had been meaning to fix for the past 2 years.  Missing pieces of trim, paint, etc.  I installed a new toilet,vanity, and tile in the bathroom.  I fixed up some ugly outlets and old faucet in the kitchen.

Once everything was solid I gave the place the cleaning of a lifetime.  Every square inch of the place was scrubbed down.  As part of this process, I found a lot of little things that needed fixing and/or updating.  Things like new outlet covers, scratches in flooring, blue painters tape left on the windows for the past 2 years, etc.

Another round of decluttering followed to clean up the cupboards and remove anything that was not important.  When I say I ruthlessly got rid of junk I mean it.  If its something that I won’t use in 6 months or some high value item it gets tossed, or sold.  I live on a busy road and a great way to toss stuff is to put a “Free Crap” sign next to the road with a pile of stuff….it usually disappears in an hour or so.

Next step was to get a realtor to figure out what my place was worth.  I have been using Chris Carbon from Exit Realty for many years and she’s pretty good at what she does.  She stunned me with how much value I had lost.  I only have one thing to say about that:

Never again will I take out a mortgage and give those greedy bastards another dime.  Anyway, I listed the house with Chris and it hit the MLS the first week of May 2012.

Showings

Once in the MLS we had a good level of interest and got about one showing per week.  As summer came and the temp warmed up, we started getting about 2 showings per week.  For showings I had the place 100% spotless with absolutely nothing out of place, the grass was always kept mowed.

After about 8 weeks we had two offers come in and I accepted one of them.  We should be closing next Friday if nothing goes wrong.

Where Will I be living?

Good question….

Drilling The Well

In order to get a building permit I needed to drill a well.  It is possible to dig a shallow well in some MA towns but it is frowned upon due to surface contamination.  I decided to drill my well because I was concerned about quantity of water during the summer months.

I began my quest for a well by contacting Travis at Petersham Pump and picking his brain about off grid pump solutions.  He had lots of luck with the Grunfos SQ series of pumps.

Yet Another Permit

In order to drill a well in MA you need yet another permit….well drilling permit.  So I visited the Board of Health once again with a $50 check and the well drillers number and was given a handwritten piece of paper.

Well Costs

The things that cost money when drilling a well is 1) well casing, and 2) depth.  Everything else is nickels and dimes (mud pit, drive shoe, etc).  The well casing must be long enough so that it can be driven into bedrock so you want bedrock close enough to the surface so that you don’t need much well casing which costs $15-18 per foot depending on the price of steel.  Having bedrock too close to the surface is not a good thing when installing a septic system.  I would say that 30ft to bedrock is a good number.

Prep Work

First we needed to pick a location for the well.  My septic engineer gave me a location for the well which I moved a little bit to get it away from the driveway.  The drillers required a mud pit that was 4ft by 6ft and about 5ft deep.  My Kubota BX25 took about an hour or so to dig the hole.

The technical reason for the pit is that when you drill a well through sandy soil the dirt wants to collapse around the drill bit.  So the driller pumps a slurry of “drilling mud” into the hole.  This drilling mud packs the walls of the hole with small grains of clay and whatever else which keeps them from falling into the drill hole.

Drill Baby Drill!

Drilling day arrived and so did Travis and Chris from Gap Mtn to install my well.  I arrived on site and they had about 30ft of drill rod in the hole.  The neighbor to the rear of me was 30ft to bedrock so I expected the well casing to be installed pretty quickly.  After a couple of hours they were down 50ft without hitting bedrock and my hopes of 30ft to bedrock were dashed.  After several hours of frustrating drilling they finally hit bedrock and installed about 70ft of well casing.

The hole for the well casing gets drilled about two inches bigger than the well casing which is 6 inches.  When they hit bedrock they pull out the drill bit and lower the well casing into the hole.  During this process the drill rig makes a lot more noise than usual.

With the well casing installed they lowered in a smaller drill bit to “shoot for water”.  This drilling went very quickly and I could see the drill rod being driven into the hole.  After a rod or two (40ft) we began seeing signs of groundwater coming up the hole.  After six or so drill rods we had hit about 10GPM of water.

With the drill rig out of the way we checked the static level of the water which was at about 70 feet.  Travis has this pretty neat gadget which shoots sound waves down the well pipe and measures the distance to water by timing how long the sound takes to “bounce” back (an ultrasonic range transducer for you tech minded folks).

After 15 minutes or so out of the fog I could see the water in my well!  It was at about 40ft and rising.  Since my home will be 100% off grid having a high static level is important to keeping my power usage low.  The next morning I checked and the static level ended up at about 8ft from the top of the well pipe.

I installed a pitcher pump with 10ft of pipe on it, primed the pump, and started pumping water from my well.  The cheap imported pitcher pump was able to pull over 5GPM.  Based on my pumping I would guess that I could pump at about 2GMP and the static level would only drop about 18 inches.

The Results

After a couple of days Travis did a pump test and took a water sample (required by MA law) and mailed the results to me.  When all was said and done, I had a 205ft deep well, with a 10ft static level, producing 10GPM, with excellent quality water.  In short I got the perfect well for about $4500.

Septic Systems in MA

I this post I will rant about the Title 5 laws we have in MA which govern private septic systems.  They make it impossible for a new construction to use anything other than a concrete tank which empties into a gravel pit.

In my prototype tiny house, I installed a composting toilet made by natures head. I planned to capture my greywater for use in watering the lawn, plants, etc.  Under MA law composting toilets are 100% ok, but you need to have a system for greywater installed and your lot must be capable of having a traditional septic system installed.  Problem is, the only system allowed (not costing a fortune) is a traditional septic system with a smaller than normal leach field.

How stupid is that?  I’m going to pay all that money for a system that is $500 away from being a full size septic system. It does not make economic sense to use composting toilets in MA.  I’m sure that’s exactly how the “powers that be” want it.

The Survey

I contracted an engineer Liz from Clear Water Environmental out of ME to design my septic system.  Her and her husband came out to my property to do a survey and a perc test.

For the perc test they dug two very deep holes  and took soil samples and also looked for signs of groundwater.  They also dug two shallow holes for the actual percolation test where they fill the hole with water and see how long it takes for the water to drain off.

In my case I have very sandy soil and a perc rate off the charts meaning that the perc hole drained out very quickly.  This can actually be a bad thing since it requires that I have five feet of soil rather than four between the system and groundwater.  Fortunately my water table is low enough so I don’t need to add fill to the site to meet the five foot requirement.

 

The Plans

About a week after the survey I got a call from Liz telling me I better pay up or else 😉 and that my plans were done.  So I mailed her out a check and got a set of plans and all the state mandated forms filled out for me.

After examination of the plans I realized that I would be buying a 1500 gallon septic tank.  Some back of the napkin math was very revealing.  The average person produces 1 ounce of fecal matter per 12 pounds of body weight.  For me that would be 1.3 pounds per day.  A very rough guesstimate would mean that I produce about one gallon of poop every 5 days.  That means that a 1500 gallon tank would hold 7500 days worth of poop or about 20 years.  I’m 44 so I won’t need to empty it until my 64th birthday.  No overkill here….nope!

The Dreaded Conservation Commission

In MA each town has a group of people that are basically used to enforce wetlands laws and a few other things.  Initially I was dreading my meeting with these folks as many of them are what I would call “Eco Nazi’s”.  Yes there are a group of people in each MA town that think its their job to prevent landowners from making use of the land that they own.

Fortunately the Conservation folks in my town are very nice people and very practical.  They looked over my plans and were especially helpful in getting my project underway.  I’m sure it helped that my project was a good distance away from wetlands and very green compared to other homes in the area.

Quotes and Permits

After receiving plans and having the Board of Health approve them I was able to send out request for quotations.  I sent out four packages and only got back a quote from one company.  I even called the fellow that did the excavation for my perc test to remind him and never got anything back.  Word of advice to contractors: “If you can’t send me a quote in a timely manner, I can’t trust you to do the work in a timely manner”.

Years ago William Proctor did a septic system for my current residence and did a really great job.  He is a bit outside the area for my new Bodega, but I asked him to quote on my new system and a Title V inspection for my current residence.  Bill got me a quote in just a couple of days and gave me a very fair price so I’m using him.